Saturday, August 9
The All Points West Festival is named after the events that happened at Ellis Island and the New Jersey Central Railroad terminal in the early 1900s. After immigrants entered the United States, they would travel by rail to "all points west." We were greeted on Saturday by the celebrated sunlit towers of Ellis Island and Lily Holbrook as we made our way across the front of the Queen Stage at the East Coast's version of Coachella. The West Coast gal's voice echoed with an angst-filled version of a cherub as she sang "Welcome to the Slaughter House." The buzz of generators used to keep the giant moon jump next to the media center inflated hummed behind her set. As the sun rose, it revealed a shimmer of yesterday's confetti scattered in front of the Bullet Stage. We landed at the Blue Comet and could already see the substantial difference in crowd size, which continued to increase throughout the day, eventually capping at its sell-out capacity of over 20,000 attendees.
| APW 2008|
Chromeo's team of P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) on the ivories and Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) on guitar and lead vocals dropped the electro-funk on Dirty Jerz with freak-out pizzazz. Macklovitch explained that it was a little early for them and that this was how they wake-up before busting loose a sound that was part Jackson 5, part Jam Master Jay. Add a dash of P-Funk and you were cooking with Chromeo. The crowd locked up claps with P-Thugg's talk box and synth as they led us into a Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" tease before dipping into a nasty version of "Bonafide lovin'." They made their mannequin-legged instruments quake, but those knock kneed lady legs had nothing on the fest's main squeeze in the harbor. The Montreal duo injected straight pimp juice into our veins as they laid out a sticky "You're So Gangsta" with Macklovitch's guitar fed through huge gobs of sticky goop. The effect could be felt deep in the gullet and made my stomach turn. The buddies acted like a rad version of Laverne & Shirley, except their Yiddish "Schlemiel! Schlimazel!" hopscotch chant was a tune called "Tenderoni."
One of the first things you noticed watching The Felice Brothers was Simone Felice, their drummer on a kit labeled "Stink Frank." His slow, over-exaggerated moves worked well with the tan riding helmet he sported. The whole look made his drumming appear as if he was some mad jockey, biting his lips as he leaned forward in the saddle to coerce his instrument. They switched gears as James Felice grabbed center stage for some hillbilly music. They performed each song like some aging actor's last-ditch attempt at theatrics. At times James' voice sounded like Eddie Vedder, all low and growling. Other times, he sent us for a Felice-fed spiritual romp around the lawn. "Frankie's Gun" brought huge cheers as they tore through the crowd favorite.
| Emily Haines - Metric :: APW 2008|
There are some artists you are just plain drawn to. Emily Haines of Metric is one of those personalities. There are lots of adjectives to describe her and most fall into the captivating and bold region. Her gold suit shimmered in the sun, reflecting the crowd's lust. Haines was the perfect complement to Liberty's gold flame, and carried on the weekend's trend of powerful frontwomen. She worked the entire main stage with thighs and headshakes as she rubbed elbows with guitarist James Shaw. She joked that she had turned herself into a hippy, and that she knew her outfit didn't look like hippy wear but that it was better than the hipsters wearing blazers. She wove her voice in between bassist Josh Winstead's shuffling pocket, plugging up any empty holes with her take on new wave rock.
Three words to sum up The Virgins: lanky, young and talented. The NYC foursome blasted their rock at us with "One Week of Danger." Donald Cumming's vocals came across as a fresh Joe Strummer crossed with a Bruce Springsteen fervor. He's confident, and why not? On his flanks sat the solid rhythm section of bassist Nick Zarin-Ackerman and drummer Erik Ratensperger to cradle his torrid guitar leads throughout, including the crowd-pleaser "Rich Girls."
| Animal Collective :: APW 2008|
The venue was kept fairly eco-friendly with plenty of recycling, carpooling and a number of green exhibits. I found Solar Pavilion 2 to be one of the most interesting. Its lightweight re-configurable structure utilized properties of self-organization found in nature. The structure was a visual version of the atmospheric grandeur Animal Collective laid down. Their abnormal harmonies demolished song structure and roped in the unassuming ear with a musical RSVP that demanded immediate response. Avey Tare emerged as the band's key vocalist, leaning on his ordinary melodies and howling lengthy, makeshift lines underneath during the extended intro of "Street Flash." Each song pulsed to life, making the ground around the Blue Comet Stage shake under our feet. They used the entire depth of the sound system to play with circular noises, sending out psychedelic, folksy drizzles of synthesizers and billowing bass. They bounced them off the giant cruise ship traveling between Lower Manhattan and the audience like some unusual version of radar. This only made the already odd site even more anomalous. It was hard to differentiate the notes leading into Panda Bear's "Comfy In Nautica" and the helicopter hovering a few hundred feet off the field, but it simply added to the space that Animal Collective thrived within.
The mood was lethargic in the late afternoon at Liberty State Park, and it would take something substantial to make us budge. The last place I expected to find that was with The Black Angels. Whoever was in charge of Saturday's lineup had a vision that clicked like clockwork. The Black Angels' stoner doom descended dark and heavy as fuck with distortion and drums hanging out for the masses to consume or run from. The powerful combination of Stephanie Bailey's drumming and Alex Maas' haunting, choir-like church cries were the sound of pained alarm hanging by a taught wire. Maas' guitar pricked our skin with a thousand white-hot needles. All we could do was grit our teeth and hang on as the sound of magnificent trepidation reigned over the grounds. They played to the Statue of Liberty and sent her a nasty smack down with some wickedly devious guitar lines in the vein of Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge.
| Kings of Leon :: APW 2008|
Kings of Leon filled the main stage with glittery charisma rock. Jared Followill laid out a V8 powered pocket of bass that kept your head bobbing Marc Brownstein style the entire set. Caleb Followill tossed pick after pick to the front row as he played to the crowd's hunger for the band. He greased everyone up with showy Camaro rock on "Sex On Fire." The Followill family tore holes in the clouds with the energy created during the new song but otherwise the set was fairly bland. These four scruffy, shaggy minstrels had the ladies in heat though as a sizable red bra landed onstage with "I'll be your queen of Leon" scrawled across it. They even caught the attention of the good Green Lady in the harbor as she blushed in the setting sun. Big ups to the boom camera operator for catching some of the funniest candid moments of the festival, as the crowd flashed, made faces and laughed at themselves on the jumbo screens.
We got back to business as Philly-kin The Roots played an addictive game of pass the rhyme, always keeping the lyrical switches on the upstroke (think how a juggler keeps balls in the air). The Roots greatness appeared in their transitions filled with nuggets of free-form jazz that eventually slipped into a scat type boogie. Black Thought led us in what he called "a moment of laughter" for recently deceased comic legend Bernie Mac. Now this really wasn't your normal hip-hop show as Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson led the tribe into a sousaphone jam layered with island undercurrents. The Roots crew eventually worked the jam down with the determined keystrokes of Kamal Gray. Hanging back, waiting to pounce on the mouse, sat the hip-cat Black Thought, who grabbed hold of the jazz to spit fire on "Rising Down." To toss a cherry on top of it all, Black Thought raised the ante with some razzle-dazzle speed rounds, rolling words into thoughts and then blowing them out of his mouth like intensity filled bubbles that popped in our ears. They were a clear highlight on Saturday, filling the set with everything from Led Zeppelin guitar teases to street corner prophesying.
| The Roots :: APW 2008|
I proudly played a game of human frogger as I navigated the masses waiting for Radiohead's second night extravaganza. A dark pink, puffy clouded sky highlighted Lower Manhattan, who had been waiting patiently for the Saturday night show to begin. The city lit up the backdrop again as Yorke and company unleashed the fury of ultimate crowd pleaser "National Anthem" before touching down on the driving beat of "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi." The Oz-like lights reemerged, casting a green-as-grass glow over the mammoth crowd. "The Bends" was unveiled with serious gut and soul, and Yorke sent the song into a raw, yet hope-filled direction. I made my way back to the bleachers where I found a slew of interesting people. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins sat in the back while I stood next to Mike Meyers and his posse. After several songs went by, including a tremendous version of "Bangers and Mash," I asked Meyers what he thought of the show. His answer was short and simple, "Good, really good." All I could think about were three little words: Head, Pants, Now.
Yorke dedicated "Airbag" to opener Kings of Leon and gave them a shout out, sayin, "If we were as good looking as them, we would be famous." Saturday's Radiohead show was a peek into the future as they manipulated our senses, drilling a shock and awe campaign home with music, lights and a picturesque NYC backdrop. The skyline has changed dramatically since Radiohead had last played Liberty State Park almost seven years ago, and the missing Twin Towers' presence was still felt.
Continue reading for Sunday coverage...
| Thom Yorke - Radiohead :: APW 2008|